In part 2 of this article, I will be talking about the use of language and sensory items but am approaching this from my experience as a movement and dance teacher.
Did you know that the language we use in movement sessions can have a profound effect on children and stay with them for life?
We all want children to build and develop their physical skills but at the same time we need to understand that their goals and levels will vary and that’s OK!
With this in mind, you need to think about how you phrase and frame your instructional language around their different abilities and needs.
Your language has such a huge impact on their wellbeing making them feel able to achieve and develop.
If you want the children to “stand up!” or “walk/run/jump around the room” and you have children that have mobility issues, use the phrases “ready to move?” and “Let’s move around the room”. Follow this with feedback “we have all moved around the room”.
It is also important to individually use their name with the instruction, so they are clear what is expected of them. I also verbalise my movements which has the added bonus of helping developing speech and language skills.
Don’t forget the speed of the movements you are asking for will be different for each child and their needs. To help the children, model the idealised version of what you want them to achieve at their own stage of learning. Remember don’t let your assumptions of their abilities prevent them from achieving more.
The biggest hinderance to every class is the adults. Adults bring in our own assumptions to the class about children’s abilities and potential to progress and develop.
Your voice and how you use it in the session plays an enormous part of making sessions fun and exciting. Don’t be monotone, but at the same don’t overstimulate the children – it’s about finding the ‘Goldilocks zone’ for your children! Be expressive and encouraging at all times whilst paying attention to their verbal and non-verbal feedback.
Making Mary Poppins proud!
I always have a bag full of props and sensory items as I never know what will be needed on the day to engage the children to allow them to experience movement in a sensory and creative way. Every year I have to replace or find new things to add to the bag, but I thought I would share with you a few of my ‘go to’ items.
I highly recommend investing in a parachute as this is a wonderful piece of equipment that can be used in so many different ways to help children.
Movement activities with a parachute
An example of some of the activities that I do to help develop large body muscles and the core to improve their posture and stability.
- Pushing the parachute away with the movements of reaching, stretching and pushing
- Rolling or crawling on the parachute as you shake it
- Sitting in the centre, trying not to topple over, as you pull them around the room on the parachute
Calming activities with a parachute
Have all the children sitting or lying on mats in the centre of the room as you and some assistants lift the parachute up, down and walk around in a circle to music. The children really enjoy ‘The Swan’ or ‘Aquarium’ from ‘Carnival of the Animals’ by Saint-Saens.
This activity is wonderful for children who have difficulties with movement as you are stimulating them visually with the colours, music, movement of the parachute and feeling of the air around them.
Some ideas combining a parachute and make-believe:
- “Under the sea” looking for turtles, crabs, watching the water moving above us. Shaking from side to side as the waves get stronger and stronger!
- “Picnic on the Moon” lying on the moon looking up at the stars and planets - add a light display
- “African safari” running underneath the trees and through the long grass hiding from the lion
Silk and scarves
If you purchase lengths of silk roughly 2 to 3 metres in length and then tie-dye in different colours you have a fantastic prop that can be used for so many different things.
Movement activities with silk and scarves
Just a few of the things I do with the children:
- Hold the length of silk, to the side of your body, as they run through it
- Let the children move around the room with the silk seeing how it moves and ripples
- Swaying and moving to the music holding scarves
- Create a bridge with the length of silk (with an assistant) for them to roll under / over or move through
- Let them roll themselves up in the silk like a cocoon and then unroll
Some ideas combining silk, scarves and make-believe:
- “Teatime” putting clothes on the line, catching clothes as they blow in the wind
- “Visit to the Zoo” flap your wings as you fly like a flamingo
- “Picnic on the Moon” the children fly through the milky way as you search for the Moon
- “Under the sea” picking up seaweed and putting it on top of your turtle shells as you look for more seaweed
Space blankets and pom poms
Children and babies love the sound and texture of the space blanket, making it ideal for so many different adventures using make-believe.
Some ideas combining space blankets, pom poms and make-believe:
- “Picnic on the Moon” the space blanket can be their rocket, spacesuit or even the moon they land on
- “Picnic on the Moon” pom poms are another favourite as you can catch and feel the stars, meteors and food that floats away
- “North Pole” pom poms are ideal for a snowball fight!
A combination of handbells, finger cymbals, maracas, tambourine and wood block (also known as a wooden crow) are always in my bag at sessions as while the children are tapping and shaking the instruments, they are developing their motor skills and cross body movements and tambourines with ribbons make the best dancing jellyfish.
Did you know finger cymbals help develop the ‘pincer movement’ of the thumb and index finger?
Some essential items for your sessions
- Long feathers or an old-fashioned feather duster (real feathers)
- Lengths of silk (alternative floaty material if vegan)
- Silk scarves (alternative floaty material if vegan)
- Small bean bags
- Space blanket
- Pom poms (different textures and colours)
- Crinkly paper
- Tambourine (headless ones last so much longer)
- Finger cymbals
- Wood block (wooden crow)
- Hand bells
Gina’s background was originally ballet, but she has spent the last 27 years teaching movement and dance in mainstream, early years and SEND settings as well as dance schools.
Whilst teaching, Gina found the time to has create the ‘Hi-5’ dance programme to run alongside the Australian Children’s TV series and the Angelina Ballerina Dance Academy for Hit Entertainment.
Her proudest achievement to date is her baby Littlemagictrain. She created this specifically to help children learn through make-believe, music and movement. One of the highlights has been seeing Littlemagictrain delivered by Butlin’s famous Redcoats with the gorgeous ‘Bonnie Bear’ on the Skyline stage.
Gina has qualifications of teaching movement and dance from the Royal Ballet School, Trinity College and Royal Academy of Dance.